The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for the Environment

On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to thank the international Antarctic community for the logistical support offered to the Australian Antarctic programme following the grounding of the Aurora Australis at Mawson research station during a blizzard on 24 February 2016.

My sincere thanks go to the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition, the United States Antarctic Program and the Chinese Antarctic Administration and their respective governments for the assistance they provided to the Australian Antarctic programme.

The Japanese icebreaker, Shirase, diverted from its own scientific programme to transfer the expeditioners the 2300 kilometres from Mawson to Casey research station where they arrived safely today.

They will be flown home on the Australian Antarctic Division’s Airbus A319 in the next couple of days.

The United States Antarctic Program provided an LC130 to transport expeditioners scheduled to return home on the Aurora Australis from Australia’s Davis research station to US McMurdo station.

They were then brought home on the Antarctic Division Airbus.

The Chinese vessel Xuelong made an unscheduled stop at Davis research station to collect critical science samples and cargo and two expeditioners.

The Xuelong is scheduled to arrive in Fremantle later this month.

The assistance offered by all three Antarctic programmes is greatly appreciated as were the many other offers of support from other countries.

The international Antarctic community has once again demonstrated its willingness to support one another in times of difficulty.

Antarctica is a hostile, remote and inherently dangerous environment and international co-operation is vital for our dedicated Antarctic teams to be able to carry out their important work.

The Royal Australian Air Force will fly the C-17A to Wilkins Aerodrome in East Antarctica in the coming days to return three helicopters due to come back to Australia on the Aurora Australis.

This follows the successful proof-of-concept flights undertaken by the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Antarctic Division earlier this season.

My sincere thanks to RAAF and 36 Squadron the assistance in returning these heavy-lift items to Australia.

I would also like to reiterate my thanks to P&O Maritime, and in particular the Master and crew of the Aurora Australis, who demonstrated exemplary skill and ability in testing circumstances.

The ship is due to arrive in Fremantle today (Saturday 12 March).